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Airline SAS braces for pilot strike as midnight deadline nears

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By Reuters
Airline SAS braces for pilot strike as midnight deadline nears
FILE PHOTO: A Scandinavian SAS airline passenger plane flies near the air traffic control tower after taking off from Charles de Gaulle International Airport in Roissy, near Paris, August 21, 2013. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo   -   Copyright  Charles Platiau(Reuters)

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Seventy thousand travellers with SAS will see their flights cancelled on Friday unless negotiators agree a last-minute deal to stop nearly all of its around 1,500 pilots going on strike after midnight, the carrier said on Thursday.

Swedish, Danish and Norwegian pilot unions earlier this month called a strike if there was no agreement on wages and other terms after an earlier round of talks broke down without the parties finding common ground.

National mediators in the three countries have been trying to broker a deal since last week between delegations of the two parties. SAS spokeswoman Freja Annamatz said negotiations were still ongoing.

A strike would affect 70 percent of SAS flights. The remaining 30 percent are operated by partners that would not be affected by strike action, Annamatz said.

Should a strike last through the weekend, around 170,000 travellers would be affected in total, she added.

Earlier this week, the airline offered travellers concerned about a possible strike the chance to reschedule flights for the April 26-29 period to another date free of charge.

SAS is in the midst of renewing an elderly and fuel-intensive fleet after spending years cutting costs in the face of cut-price competition from budget carriers such as Norwegian Air Shuttle and Ryanair.

The airline reported a bigger than expected loss for its fiscal first quarter in February, but said it still expected to run a profit for the full year.

(Reporting by Anna Ringstrom; Editing by Niklas Pollard and Jan Harvey)